You may have heard some internet clamor recently over Wii owners taking amazing steps to support the release of a few choice titles here in North America. This has included mailing in small tokens like story pages or paper swords to Nintendo of America, in a sort of reverse-boycott known as Operation Rainfall. It can best be described as a bunch of rabid fans with money, trying to raise awareness and prove interest for the release of the Wii titles like Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora's Tower. The internet collective really started making it rain when they pushed an outdated listing for Xenoblade's old title, Monado, to the top of Amazon's most-preordered list. Having hundreds of gamers lay their credit cards on the line just in the hope of getting their favorite game on a boat to America has to be worth some response from Nintendo, right?
The response did come through, late last week, in a message on Nintendo's official Facebook. It read:
Thank you for your enthusiasm. We promised an update, so here it is. We never say "never," but we can confirm that there are no plans to bring these three games to the Americas at this time. Thanks so much for your passion, and for being such great fans!
In other words: we appreciate your loyalty, but we know all you really want to buy is Wii Play and Zelda.
The plot gets even sillier when one considers that Xenoblade is already fully translated: it's planned for release in September, but only in Europe. Would it really be so hard to put an ESRB logo over the PEGI one...?
I jest, of course--there has to be more to Nintendo's decision than spite. Sadly, all we have to go on is history, and the Wii recent history has been telling. Sin & Punishment 2 got a fair-sized marketing campaign, but didn't end up taking off like NoA hoped--though that's likely more a result of its arcade style and hardcore-only appeal than the American market in general. No More Heroes was another high-budget Wii title that's now relegated to the status of cult classic, rather than system seller.
Nintendo's reluctance to push Wii exclusives for core gamers, even while explicitly including those fans in the recent WiiU pitch, is bizarre to say the least. But astute gamers will remember this isn't the first time NoA has looked down and whispered, "no." They've also been steadily silent on the idea of rereleasing Earthbound or its sequel Mother 3, despite a large and affluent fanbase such as evidenced by Starmen.net. We've had years to speculate on that one, and everything from Beatles music to sales figures have been presented as evidence in the court of public opinion. It also may be last third-party title on which Nintendo spent a significant amount of marketing, back in 1995, only to have it sell pitifully in the pre-Playstation era of RPGs.
Contrast that with the Rainfall-focused games: approachable RPGs from popular directors. The sales of FFXIII last year more than prove there's a market for beautiful JRPGs; Sakaguchi's Last Story and Tetsuya Takahashi's Xenoblade should be hot in the minds of American fans. There's money on the table, if only NoA would put its chips down.
I'm no Nintendo-hater - I've owned a Wii since day one and couldn't bring myself to give up on it at any point. (Sure, it's more of a Smash Bros. machine, but that's where we're at now.) I just wish, more than anything, that Nintendo of America would offer some heart-to-heart talk about why it makes these sorts of decisions. Transparency is a long way off for any modern company, but it seems like it's only Nintendo fans who get all the benefits of a messy breakup with none of the closure.
As a (possibly) final farewell, hit the jump for some gameplay of Xenoblade's early levels, along with annotations on combat and the beautiful world surrounding the Monado. If you're in Europe, look forward to playing this in September and The Last Story sometime next year. If you're in America, well... keep writing!